PLEASE READ BEFORE VOLUNTEERING.
We’ve heard back from many volunteers who have had great days working out in the field in Vermont responding to the effects of Tropical Storm Irene. We’ve also heard from countless people saying thank you. Here is some important information for volunteers of a “code of etiquette” to follow.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the cavalier “get it cleaned up” attitude, and there is a time and place for that, but please remember that you are cleaning up someone’s home. This someone is a person who likely did not anticipate having a ruined home this weekend. There is a great deal of mourning that accompanies disasters, and as a volunteer, it is paramount that you are sensitive to this. You may be there to help clean out garbage from a basement, but if someone wants to tell you a story about every piece in there, it is part of your job to sit and listen.
Sometimes, you are also a stranger, so you need to introduce yourself, ask IF you can help (even if you were assigned there from a town meeting) and ask HOW you can help. There is a great deal of pride in Vermont; don’t underestimate how hard it might be for someone to accept help.
It is important that we as a volunteer community respect how people come to terms with the damage, both physically and emotionally, and wait until help is requested. The bottom line is to be polite and respectful. If someone is not ready to accept help, thank them for their time, let them know who they can contact if they want help and leave.
A word on safety: There are hazards associated with clean-up. To be safe while you are helping, you must bring with you a N95 mask (about $5 at hardware store), Boots, Work Gloves, and wear pants and sleeves. Please bring your lunch and bottled water to drink. Also remember, the Health Department is recommending that no one under the age of 18 be involved in clean up efforts. There are plenty of other ways kids can help, mucking out basements is not one of them.